Nothing beats a miserably cold day like a bowl of warm, soothing Chinese Lotus Root Soup, with lotus root, dried cuttlefish, chinese peanuts and pork ribs boiled for 2 hours or more to give that umami flavour every spoonful. Great to prepare for your family to drink!
Blanch the pork and chicken bones in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Discard the water. Wash the bones and remove all the visible blood clots.
Blanch the cuttlefish in boiling water for 1 minute to soften it.
Remove the centre soft bone, mouth and eye of the cuttlefish. Then cut into 1-inch lengths
Scrape off all the mud from the lotus root, and use a brush to scrub it clean.
Rinse the lotus root. Cut away the joints (the hard parts in between the sections of the lotus root and discard.
Cut the lotus root in half, then slice the lotus root cross-sectionally into 2 cm thickness.
Remove the seeds from the red dates and rinse.
Rinse the wolf berries and drain dry.
Wash the peanuts and set aside.
Add the pork bones, chicken bones, cuttlefish, old cucumber, and peanuts into the pot.
Add the 2.5 litres of water into a pot and bring to a boil over high fire. Then turn the heat to medium and continue to boil for 2 hours.
Add in the wolf berries and red dates, and boil for another 15 minutes.
Add salt (a pinch, or to taste). serve hot.
When cooking soup with pork bones, buy cuts like suo shi gu (锁匙骨) or bing bang ban (乒乓板) which you can get from your local butcher at the wet market. The meat on the bones still taste good when eaten because they contain just the right amount of fats to keep the meat tender and yet not make the soup oily.
Buy Indonesian pork (from the wet market) as it tends to be leaner and sweeter than Australian pork (typically sold at supermarkets), so the soup will not be oily.
Get an oil separator if you are the very healthy kind who wants to remove all oil in the soup before drinking. Its cleaner, faster and much more convenient than the 'old-school' method of cooking the soup a day in advance and leaving it in the fridge for the fats to coagulate, then scraping off the fat layer.
Try to buy red dates with seeds. Firstly they are sweeter. Secondly pitted red dates, if stored too long at the shops, may have tiny insects and spider webs forming inside the centre hollow of the dates.
Blanch the pork to get rid of the blood clots. This removes the porky smell and ensure that the soup will not have a scum layer on top when cooked. The same goes for the chicken bones.
Don't soak the wolfberries. Rinse them just before adding them into the soup otherwise they will become mushy.
Add Red dates and wolf berries only during the last 15 minutes, because if you boil them for too long, it makes the soup a bit sourish.
Don't soak the cuttlefish, otherwise all the sweetness will be absorbed into the water, leaving it tasteless.
Check on the soup from time to time to ensure there is sufficient water in the pot. If the water level is low, you can top up using boiling water, but not too much otherwise the soup will be too diluted. Use hot boiling water so that the temperature will not drop suddenly, affecting the cooking time.
Try the soup first before adding salt, because the soup may already be tasty enough.
You can use either dried octopus (八爪鱼) or dried cuttlefish to get that additional sweetness to the soup. Dried octopus is more expensive (almost double the price), and it is sweeter than dried cuttlefish. But I prefer to use dried cuttlefish because it is lower in cholesterol.
You can also replace the cuttlefish with a small piece of cured Chinese ham (1/2 palm size) for a deeper flavour. Cured Chinese ham (云南火腿 Yun Nan Huo Tui or 金华火腿 Jin Hua Huo Tui) is also great for lowering heatiness.